Shunda Creek Alumni Paying It Forward

The Cause

Per capita, Alberta has the second highest rate of accidental opioid-related deaths in Canada, behind only British Columbia. In 2017, 589 Albertans died of accidental fentanyl-related overdoses. That would have ranked fentanyl as Alberta’s 8th leading cause of death—ahead of diabetes mellitus and behind stroke—in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available. That year, there were 274 fentanyl-related overdoses in Alberta.

Among our other services, Enviros operates Alberta’s only two wilderness-based addiction treatment centres for youth and young adults. One of those, Shunda Creek, offers treatment to males aged 18 to 24. This treatment includes the Shunda Creek Alumni Support program, which can mean the difference between relapse and recovery when they complete treatment and return home. For most clients, returning to their old social circles isn’t a healthy option. But with no “healthy” social circle, they often find themselves isolated and, again, at risk of relapse. The Shunda Creek Alumni Support program provides clients with peer mentoring and a new, healthy social circle.

Unfortunately, we only have funding to adequately support our alumni in Calgary. Our “idea” is to create an Alumni Support program for our alumni in Edmonton. The program will enable alumni with solid recoveries to “pay it forward” by providing new alumni with effective mentoring and a healthy social circle.

Program Components:
• Training of alumni mentors in Edmonton - Trauma informed care principles, suicide prevention, first aid. This is required to enable alumni mentors to confidently provide appropriate support to struggling alumni until professional help is available. Training will be provided by a mix of the current alumni facilitator, Enviros subject matter experts, and outside experts.
• Training of alumni mentors at Shunda Creek - This is required to enable alumni mentors to better understand the approach and underlying theory of the adventure therapy treatment at Shunda Creek from the perspective of a mentor rather than that of a client. Training will be provided by Enviros subject matter experts.
• Visits of mentors to Shunda Creek – Once trained, alumni mentors will visit Shunda Creek quarterly to introduce the Edmonton Alumni Support program, meet with clients who will return to Edmonton, and build the relationships and trust required for the clients to engage the program.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Shunda Creek 12-week wilderness-based addiction treatment program is available at no cost to any male aged 18 to 24 in Alberta. Our clients come from all parts of the province, with the majority from Calgary and Edmonton. The Edmonton Alumni Support program will directly benefit our clients who return to their homes in Edmonton and the surrounding area after they complete treatment. It is at that point where many alumni, whether of Shunda Creek or other treatment programs, have difficulties. For example, a Shunda Creek alumnus who would like to continue the hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities he participated in during treatment may have difficulties finding like-minded people to get out with. Although there are many hiking, outdoor and other groups to join, actually spending a day with a bunch of total strangers can be an intimidating proposition even for those who haven’t just spent the last 12 weeks in addiction treatment. Or, particularly early in recovery, “going for a beer” after a club hike or meeting can be a risky situation for some.

Indirectly, the Alumni Support program will benefit the families of our clients. The toll that addiction takes goes well beyond the person with the addiction. A family member who is active in an addiction affects the mental and physical health of their children, spouses, parents, siblings and their extended family. When that family member takes an active role in their recovery, it allows those affected to focus on their own health and healing. The ripple effect of one of our client’s recovery can be astounding.

Addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, creates enormous costs for our health care, social services and other public services. The cost to employers in terms of absenteeism, lost productivity, health and safety, and extended health care premiums is also significant. Not only will a Field Law Community Fund Program grant help our alumni pay it forward to new alumni, it will also result in ongoing savings to the public that are far in excess of the amount of the grant.